Andy KinnearWhen Andy Kinnear steps down at the end of September 2019, it will bring to an end nearly three and a half years as the Chair of BCS Health and Care Executive. Although it won’t spell the end of Kinnear’s involvement with BCS, it will mean that another leader will need to pick up the mantle and run with it.

Is BCS Health and Care looking for a new chair?

Yes - applications for the role of Chair of BCS Health and Care Executive are open. We are looking for the next inspiring, committed, highly enthusiastic ball-of-energy to take on the role and help take BCS, The Federation for Informatics Professionals (FEDIP) and the whole professionalism agenda within digital health and care to the next level.

Why should someone consider taking on the role as Chair?

Firstly, it’s fun! You get to work with a great bunch of ‘kindred spirits’ committed to improving health and care through the creation of a digital profession. Secondly, it gives you access to all kinds of interesting people and conversations. In my term, I have been to the House of Lords, to Political Party conferences, to numerous events at home and abroad, and into rooms I would never have got access to otherwise. It is a chance to positively influence. Finally, it is a chance to create a lasting legacy, so much of what we do in our working lives is transient, but in creating the digital health and care profession there is a chance to be part of something truly long lasting.

What does the role involve?

There are the formal duties - setting agendas, tracking actions, chairing meetings, keeping the team motivated and driven. And then there is the wider role championing all things in terms of professionalism and acting as an ambassador for BCS within the health and care domain. It really is a lot of fun.

What has been your proudest achievement as Chair?

Too many to list, but I think our work to build the ‘infrastructure’ necessary for our profession to flourish will stand the test of time. The creation of FEDIP, support for the creation of Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI) support for the major education programmes like the NHS Digital Academy, the international links to The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and Health Information Society of Australia (HISA) are all necessary infrastructure for a profession to flourish. The job for the next incumbent is to use this infrastructure to build the profession, grow the numbers of members, create the sense that this is a necessary thing for career success - not just a ‘nice to have.’

How has your tenure advanced the agenda?

I think we have given BCS a profile within the health and care space it did not have before. We have also created a sense that our profession is inevitable, as in - this is no longer an aspirational fantasy, but an actual real life thing that is taking shape before our eyes. I talk to health CIOs now who actively recognise the advantages this will bring and are campaigning with messages we have created. That makes me very proud.

How have you made a difference to digital health?

I think we have shone a light into areas that needed it and begun to help change the culture in a positive way. For example, our work to support INTEROpen has promoted the role of open standards in the delivery of healthcare. Our creation of the NHS Blueprint for Cyber Security in the aftermath of the WannaCry event has helped shaped board level education on cyber risks. Our work on professionalism has exposed how neglected some digital health and care leaders are when it comes to funding for education and expansion and has begun to show that this is not acceptable.

How important are the people and the role the workforce plays?

Vital, beyond vital even. I say it time and again, we will get the profession we deserve! That is, people like me can only create the environment for a profession to flourish. Whether it does is down to the people who work in digital health and care. It is their choice. Do they want to continue to be treated as a second-class service, unsupported in their career journeys, somehow viewed as less ‘professional’ than their colleagues in finance, medicine, nursing or HR? Or do they want to stand up and be recognised, demand investment in their development, expect a higher profile for themselves and their work and ultimately demand the place on the board that digital needs and deserves? It is their choice, but I know which camp I am in.

Why is digitisation of the health and social care system critical to the future of the NHS?

Big question! Our job is ultimately about providing safe and high-quality care, treating people and saving lives. The amazing frontline professionals who take on this challenge need all the support they can get and our job is to give them digital systems to make their work easier, to help them access vital information easily and at the right time - and ultimately to reduce the administrative burden so they can focus on their real task - treating people in need. The NHS is constantly challenged by the weight of demand for services and by budget pressures to deliver them. Many other industries have seen a concerted digitisation programme reduce pressures, create efficiencies and release frontline staff for more important tasks - it is time we did the same!

Why is it important to establish professional standards for informatics workers?

When a patient sees a doctor or a nurse, they have confidence in the care they will receive because that person is a professional - educated to a sufficient level, adhering to professionals standards and a code of conduct, and invested in year-on-year by their employer to retain and grow those skills. Organisations are expected to invest in their clinical teams’ education and those failing to meet the standards are not tolerated. Within the informatics workforce we have no such consistency - as individuals and their organisations do not yet adhere to a consistent set of standards - or have consistent investment in their skills and maintain adherence to a consistent code of conduct. Given the role the digital agenda plays in the delivery of care, then this is no longer acceptable and now is the time to truly establish the profession many of us seek.

Why should a trust consider signing up to FEDIP?

The Federation of Informatics Professionals (FEDIP) is a brilliant invention. It has allowed five of the professional bodies representing people with informatics careers to create a single entity to manage the professional standards and professional registration of all its members. By signing up to Fed-IP for your organisation you are setting an expectation for your digital workforce around their professional growth. The message to your staff is ‘We support your development, we want you to be professional, we EXPECT you to be professional’.

How can FEDIP help protect patients?

The equation is pretty simple. The more professional people are, the better invested in educationally and the higher recognition they get, then the better able they are to do their job properly. As we improve the delivery of digital services then the trickle down to our clinical professionals and ultimately our patients grows and grows. It’s that simple.

What are your hopes for the future of BCS Health and Care Group?

I hope our journey continues on the up and up. I don’t think I ever felt this was a short-term project, it’s a much bigger mission than that, but I do think we have turned a corner and created the environment for a profession to truly flourish. I am confident that with the continued support of the Secretary of State, of NHSX and of the BCS Body Corporate that the journey will continue upwards. I’ll retire in the next ten years and I hope, by then, I will be able to see a true profession taking shape, be able to hear graduates I am recruiting talk about their career plans against the backdrop of career frameworks, professional standards, professional body membership and FEDIP registration.

What’s your vision for FEDIP?

FEDIP and FCI are sister organisations driving professional standards across the digital health and care profession. I want them both to become part of the fabric of what we do, so ingrained in the work of digital health and care professionals that no one needs to actively champion their work anymore - it is the new norm.

What are the challenges ahead?

The challenges ahead will be numerous and difficult. From convincing the unconvinced to securing funding, from maintaining the energy to stifling naysayers, from navigating politics to enthusing the next generation. But, I honestly believe the biggest hurdles are now behind us. Our hardest challenge has been convincing key stakeholders that our mission was necessary and creating the infrastructure to ensure it could be successful. We have done that, so whatever lies ahead should hold no fear.

What plans do you have for your own future?

I will definitely be staying involved with BCS and seeking to influence and support the digital health and care agenda. I enjoy this too much to give it up altogether and the mission is far from complete. I am hoping to take a bit of a break in 2020 and recharge a little bit, but I will be back on this campaign trail after that - I have no doubt.

How can people get involved?

If you want to be part of this mission then the first steps are to join the professional body for the field you work in, whether that is BCS for IT folks, or CILIP for librarians, or IHRIM for health records people, or APHA for analysts or SocITM for social care and then register with FEDIP. It’s that simple!

Whilst it has been my honour and privilege to Chair the BCS Health and Care Executive, I am very conscious that I have been walking on the shoulders of giants supported by amazing people. The band of volunteer VCs and AVCs who willingly give time beyond their day job to support our collective mission are truly inspirational - the real heroes of our endeavour. These folks do this work for love and love alone, truly dedicated and inspiring people, it has been my great pleasure to lead. We have also been brilliantly supported by folks in the BCS main offices who really have put their shoulder to the digital health and care wheel with determined zeal and have made our mission their mission too. These folks deserve our grateful thanks as they are creating the environment for our success.